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HomeGuidelines > 1. Trim that Text! > 1a. Cut any paper-based text by 50%.                                                               





Audience Fit


Bonus! Hot Text Chapter (96K, PDF, 2 minutes at 56K)

1a. Cut any paper-based text by 50%.

  • Ax unnecessary repetition.

  • Attack adjectives and adverbs. (If removing the word does not substantially change the meaning, remove the word.)

  • Cut or reduce transitions that take too long summarizing earlier material. (A little context is OK).

  • Reduce a rambling phrase to a single word.

  • Choose words with fewer syllables. (We want a lower character count, too.)

  • Opt for words that describe physical objects or actions. (These words tend to be shorter).

  • When in doubt, pick the familiar or frequently used word over the rare or unfamiliar one.

  • Focus on the gist of the article, the real meaning. Do not throw away meaningful content.

Other ways to trim that text

1b. Use short words.

1c. Make some sentences short.

1d. Make most paragraphs short.

1e. Delete marketing fluff.

1f. Move vital but tangential or supplemental material.

1g. Convert repeating categories of information into tables.

1h. Beware of cutting so far that you make the text ambiguous.





Resources on brevity

Taking a Position on Brevity

Heuristic Online Text (HOT) Evaluation for Brevity















Reading from computer screens is about 25% slower than reading from paper. As a result, people don't want to read a lot of text from computer screens: you should write 50% less text and not just 25% less since it's not only a matter of reading speed but also a matter of feeling good. Nielsen, 1997.

Keep it small. Speed is the single biggest determinant of reader satisfaction. The key to fast-loading pages is simple: Send less data. Sullivan, 1998.

Use words that readers can easily and accurately understand. Effective text features:

  • Concrete words

  • Words that appear frequently in the language

  • Short words (fewer syllables)

  • Pronounceable words

  • Link labels that create clear context for the linked page

  • Words that readers are familiar with (the audience's vocabulary set).

In the English language, these word features often correlate: high-frequency words tend to be shorter, more pronounceable, and more concrete, and they contain fewer syllables.

For more info, see bibliography: Baker & Goldstein (1966), Bork (1983), Glass (1989), Horton (1990), Krug (2000), Levine (1997), Morkes & Nielsen (1997, 1998), Nielsen (1997a, 1997b, 1999f), Spyridakis (2000), Sullivan (1998).


Original Paragraphs (Return Policy on Paper)

If our product turns out to be the wrong color, fit, or combination, or if there is a quality defect, please feel free to return it for a full credit. We hope that you have not thrown away the packing slip that we put in with the order. That has the instructions on it, for a sure and successful return of the product. Of course, if you are returning something that someone sent you as a gift, please let us know the buyer's name and address, and tell us what you want us to do, like, for instance, crediting you, or refunding the money to the original purchaser. Now before you return anything, you ought to call us, or use the form on the packing slip, so we know who is sending back the product, and so you can get credit, if that is what you want. You can call us at 1-800-963-4816 to change your original order (we call this process a re-order). Using the packing slip form, down in the reorder section, you can fax the reorder to us, to get faster service, at 1-800-332-0103. Or you can just send the reorder back with the return. When sending the product back, use the US mail, or UPS, and send it to our company return address.

Company Return
2 Company Lane
Smallville, IN
USA 87107

(Please note that a convenient pre-printed address label is on the packing slip.)

239 words

Revised Return Policy on the Web

1. Follow the guidelines on the packing slip enclosed with the order. (If returning a gift, include buyer's name and address, and what you'd like us to do.)

Download a printable Return/Reorder Form.

2. For a quick reorder, call us at 1-800-963-4816. Or complete the packing slip reorder section, then fax us at 1-800-332-0103 or send back with the return.

3. Using UPS or the U.S. mail, send your return to:

Company Returns
Company Lane
Smallville, IN
USA 87107

(A pre-printed address label is on the packing slip.)

88 words.

Audience Fit
If visitors want... How well does this guideline apply?
To have fun Once people decide that they want to be entertained, they may choose to read and read and read, online.  High tech researchers evidently never me a girl who wanted to have fun, so their usability studies have focused on techies looking for techie info--not personal insight, rants, or rambles.  If you're writing a column for a webzine, you can take a few breaths and write, well, as long as 500 words at a shot.
To learn Definitely relevant.  Spike the lectures.
To act Ditto.  Tell me what to do, and let me do it!
To be aware Lao Tse showed that you can say a lot in a little space.  How about those short stories Jesus used to tell?
To get close to people Rambling is usually bad form in a discussion group.  In an e-mail, too much text drives me to the Delete button.

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